Devils Swept on Three-Game Western Canada Road Trip

The Devils traveled to Western Canada to play three games. They lost all three of them and all by the same score of 6-3.

Today it was a trip to Rogers Place in Edmonton and lost to the Oilers… 6-3.

And while the Devils have been trending down, the Oilers are trending up at the right time. With this win over the Devils, Edmonton completed a five-game homestand sweep for the first time since 1987.

The Devils did have a flu bug that had been going around the locker room and kept a bunch of players out of practice yesterday. There were some game-time decisions for coach Lindy Ruff, especially with Pavel Zacha still out and the team thus playing without a forward available to them.

Zacha joined defensemen Colton White and Christian Jaros watching from the press box but Andreas Johnsson, who had missed the previous game at Calgary with an eye injury after being high sticked in the Vancouver game on Tuesday, was back in up front.

Still, the Devils went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with Mason Geertsen officially getting some time on the blue line.

The Devils decided to end Nico Daws’ streak of nine consecutive starts tonight with Jon Gillies getting the nod between the pipes.

He stopped 34 shots on 39 total Edmonton shots for a save percentage of .872. He turned aside both Oilers shorthanded shots and four of their five power play shots (the Oilers were a perfect 1-for-1 on the power play as a team). At even strength, Gillies made 28 saves on 32 Edmonton shots. The Oilers finished with an even 40 shots on net with an empty net goal added late in the game.

Mikko Koskinen started for the Oilers and made 25 saves on 28 total New Jersey shots. He had a .893 save percentage on the afternoon. The Devils had three power play shots, all of which were gobbled up by Koskinen as New Jersey went 0-for-3 on the man advantage as a team. At five-versus-five he made 22 saves on 25 shots against.

Although the Devils defeated the Oilers in overtime back on December 31, 2021 at Prudential Center, they have not fared too well in Canada itself. Their only win coming last month (the 7-1 trouncing of the Canadiens in Montreal).

It was the Devils first trip to Edmonton since November 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contest did not start out well for the Devils either.

Just 1:11 into the game, Leon Draisaitl scored his 41st of season when Jesse Puljujarvi shot off the rush and the puck slipped through Gillies’ arm and got behind the Devils net. Gillies had no idea where the puck ended up, thinking he had squeezed it between his arm and his body. Draisaitl was then able to recover the shot behind the net and stuff it in near side. Gillies never recovered and did not get across his goal mouth in time. Just like that it was 1-0 Edmonton.

Cody Ceci had the secondary assist.

From there, the two teams traded some chances back and forth beginning with Warren Foegele being stopped by Gillies on a breakaway following Draisaitl’s goal. Just minutes after Foegele was turned aside, Nico Hischier and Johnsson went the other way on a 2-on-1 and were stopped by Koskinen when Koskinen inadvertently knocked the net off of its moorings with his right skate.

The Devils were denied there but would get on the board to tie the game at 4:50 gone by in the first.

This goal was a nice play from start to finish. It began with Dougie Hamilton moving the puck quickly out of the Devils zone up the middle to Hischier. Hischier then, just as fast, hit Jesper Bratt with a pass up the middle as he entered the Edmonton zone and split the Oilers defense. He was then in alone on Koskinen, went from his backhand to his forehand and beat the Edmonton goalie with his lightning-fast hands to make it 1-1.

That goal gave Bratt his 20th goal of the season as his career year just continues to pay off quietly for him.

And that was how things were going into the second period and would remain for the majority of the frame.

Things started off with a bang when Geertsen threw down with Zack Kassian 2:44 into the frame in a spirited fight.

Then a strange goal to give the Oilers back the lead at the end of the period.

With 2:12 remaining in the period, Evander Kane attempted a wraparound on Gillies that the Devils goalie seemed to get his left skate on and kick out.

Play continued on as no goal was signaled on that sequence.

Then, with 1:49 to go, the horn sounded in the arena – the game clock horn, not the goal horn – to stop play.

In the ensuing time between Kane’s wraparound and the horn sounding, the Situation Room in Toronto had gotten a look at the play and realized that, per the overhead camera angle, the puck had completely crossed the goal line and Gillies had actually kicked it out after it was fully in the net.

Referees Reid Anderson and Brian Pochmara were brought over to the scorers table and given a look at the replay. Everything was confirmed that it was a good goal. About 30 or so seconds were restored to the game clock and the Oilers had a 2-1 lead.

Darnell Nurse (primary) and Connor McDavid (secondary) had the helpers.

The goal, coming very late in the second period, might have given Edmonton some momentum, but it was actually the Devils, who came out flying for the third.

Just 26 seconds into the final stanza, Bratt became a 21-goal scorer when Hischier gained the Oilers zone and made a quick drop pass to Johnsson. Johnsson played tic-tac-toe with Ryan Graves, who jumped up into the rush and took a shot on net. That shot missed target, but the puck came right out to Bratt who buried his second of the game, not missing on this chance to tie the game at two.

Bratt would be majorly instrumental in the Devils go-ahead goal scored a little under three minutes later at 3:14 gone in the third.

On this one, Draisaitl tried to beat Bratt with a make a shifty move on Bratt in the neutral zone to get by him. Bratt made and alert defensive play and straight up stole the puck from the big German.

Bratt then carried it back into the Oiler zone. He got his own shot off on Koskinen, who made the initial save. Bratt then subtly guided the rebound to a trailing Nico Hischier coming up the middle of the ice. Hischier tapped the puck into the empty cage with Koskinen down and the Devils had a 3-2 lead, their first of the afternoon.

But they were not to hold on to it.

It became when the Oilers tied the game at three with 9:04 gone by.

Devin Shore got the puck up to Kris Russell at the Devils blue line. Russell actively moved around, drawing Devils defenders towards him and opening up space for Tyson Barrie.

Barrie took the pass from Russell, skated the puck down low but shot from the sharp angle, with the puck sneaking between Gillies’ left arm and the left post. The puck just squeezed through and Edmonton had the game tied at 3-3.

Kane would then notch the game winner on the power play.

When PK Subban was called for tripping Draisaitl at the 10:32 mark of the third period, it was the first time in nearly five periods that the Devils would go on the penalty kill – they did not take a penalty in Calgary and in the first period, Ty Smith took a coincidental cross-checking penalty along with the Oilers’ Josh Archibald, making it four-on-four for two minutes.

But now the Devils would be shorthanded at five-on-four and would need to kill this off.

They would not.

At 12:03 gone by in the third (and with less than 30 seconds left in the man advantage), Kane got his second of the game when a McDavid pass was blocked by Devils penalty killer Michael McLeod in front. The pass was intended for Draisaitl near the far faceoff circle, but instead, caromed right to Kane right on the doorstep.

Kane switched to his backhand and put the puck behind Gillies to restore the Edmonton lead at 4-3. Barrie had the secondary assist.

From there, the Oilers added some window dressing.

Just 49 seconds following Kane’s power play goal, Zach Hyman notched his 21st of the year for the Oilers when the Devils failed to clear and Edmonton kept the puck in the New Jersey zone.

A Puljujarvi shot pinballed around near and around the Devils goal cage as Draisaitl got it towards Gillies and Hyman put it behind the goaltender eventually to make it 5-3 Oilers.

A scary moment late in the game as an errant Draisaitl shot hit referee Anderson in the face and he crumpled to the ice, bleeding. He left for repairs as Pochmara took over as the lone referee for the remainder of the game.

Gillies would be pulled by Ruff with just about two minutes to go in regulation in an effort to get the game tied up.

The Devils would win an offensive zone faceoff at around the 18:34 mark, getting the puck back to Hamilton. Hamilton would attempt to go D-to-D at the Edmonton blue line.

Unfortunately, McDavid read the play perfectly, picking off the pass and speeding away. No one is going to catch Connor McDavid in a footrace, and he deposited the puck into the empty net to give us our final of 6-3 (again) unassisted.

That was McDavid’s 35th goal of the season.

The final stats, team-wise, saw Edmonton outshoot the Devils 40 to 28. The Devils won 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Mikey McLeod winning 50-percent of his personally to lead the Devils forwards who regularly took draws. McLeod was also facing his brother in this game in Oilers centerman Ryan McLeod.

As a team, the Devils accumulated nine penalty minutes while the Oilers had 13. Edmonton narrowly outhit the Devils 28 to 23. Each team recorded 13 blocked shots and the Devils had 21 team giveaways to the Oilers’ 15.

Damon Severson was back to being the workhorse, logging 23:48 of total ice time in the game (including 3:38 on the power play – of which he was quarterbacking the first unit – and 1:04 on the PK). Those numbers were tops for the Devils defensemen, except for the shorthanded time, as Jonas Siegenthaler had 1:31 of penalty killing time logged out of his 20:27 of total ice time.

Of the forwards, Jack Hughes logged a total of 20:53 with four minutes on the PP. Jimmy Vesey led the forwards in PK time with 1:04 logged along with his six seconds on the man advantage out of his 17:30 of total time on ice.

Bratt, with three points (two goals and an assist) and Hischier with two points (a goal and an assist), were the scoring leaders for the Devils on the afternoon.

Bratt and Severson each led in shots on goal with four apiece. Siegenthaler led in hits by landing seven of them. Hamilton led in blocked shots with three while Hamilton and Siegenthaler tied for the team lead in personal giveaways with four each. Personal takeaways were led by Hischier, Vesey, Yegor Sharangovich and Bratt, who all had two.

Next up, the NHL Trading Deadline on Monday. Prior to any discussion about that, I do want to get some news up about Devils defensive prospect and University of Michigan phenom, Luke Hughes and some updates about he has been playing as the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament begins soon.

After that, the Devils will play the Rangers on Tuesday at Prudential Center as both teams could look a little different following the Trade Deadline on Monday.

That game is at 7 PM and will be shown from a Devils point of view on MSG+2.

Until then….

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